University of Mississippi
Office of International Programs
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Student Employment

Employment Options for F-1 Students

Several types of employment are available to international students. The main categories include on-campus employment, economic hardship employment, curricular practical training (CPT), and optional practical training (OPT). For more information on how to obtain Social Security Number and other financial considerations, visit our Financial Matters section.

F-1 On-Campus Employment

    While attending UM and maintaining F-1 status, F-1 students are generally permitted to work part-time on our campus. This type of employment is “incidental to status” and does not require your OIP advisor’s authorization or an update on your SEVIS record; however, once you have a job the OIP advisor will provide you with a status verification letter to give to the Social Security Administration when you apply for a Social Security Number.

    F-1 student on-campus employment is limited to the following options:

  • Work on the school campus, employed by the I-20 issuing institution (University of Mississippi). Teaching and research assistants, work in the library, housing, and administrative offices are examples of on-campus employment.
  • Work on the school premises, employed by an on-campus commercial company. This type of job must be directly related to student services, such as the private bookstore in the union, or Aramark dining services.
  • Work done at off-campus locations, but considered as on campus. This includes work at an off-campus location that is educationally associated with the school, such as off campus University of Mississippi labs.
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    Important points to remember:
  • Students must maintain F-1 status in order to be eligible for on-campus employment.
  • On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students can work full-time (40 hrs) during vacation periods.
  • Students are subject to federal and state taxes.
  • On-campus employment is not allowed after completion of studies unless you have been hired as a university staff member in a position competent to your degree level. You will have to use OPT, H1-B sponsorship or some other legal status for work on-campus after your studies.
  • Students after obtaining on-campus employment must then apply to the Social Security Administration for a Social Security number. Students may begin their work before the number arrives, but will not be paid until the SSN is given to the student employment office. You will need to download, or come by our office to get an SSN packet before going to the Social Security Office. You can also find the packet on our OIP Forms page.

F-1 Student Employment Based on Economic Hardship

    Employment based on economic hardship results from extreme financial difficulties faced by the student that are unforeseen and out of the student’s control. These may include loss of financial aid, or death of a family member supporting the student, significant devaluation of the student’s home country currency and other such changes beyond the student's control. If you are in a serious economic hardship and feel that you may qualify for economic hardship-based employment authorization, contact OIP for more information.

Practical Training (CPT/OPT for F-1 Students)

    There are two kinds of practical training available to F-1 Students: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

    Curricular Practical Training

    Curricular Practical Training, or CPT, refers to employment that is “an integral part of an established curriculum,” which may include internship, co-op education, or work/study alternative. It must be a requirement for graduation. There is no maximum in the number of times or duration a student may engage in either part-time or full-time CPT; however, use of full-time CPT for one year or more removes eligibility for Optional Practical Training. Eligibility requirements for CPT:

  • The student must have maintained legal F-1 status for at least nine months
  • The student can do CPT on a part-time or full-time basis after receiving the Designated School Official’s (International Advisor) approval.
  • Employment must be related to the student’s course of study.
  • The student must have an offer of employment from his or her future employer before CPT and be processed.
  • The student must continue to maintain a full course of study while doing CPT. Check the CPT Checklist (link to form) for more information on what you need to do before applying for CPT.
  • NOTE: Students pursuing CPT must obtain a new SEVIS I-20 that records the CPT and provides students with an exact date when they can start their employment. Please make an appointment with your international student adviser to complete the CPT application process. The CPT application packet can be found on our OIP Forms page.

    Optional Practical Training

    Optional Practical Training, or OPT, allows international students to be temporarily employed to gain practical experience in the student’s major area of study.

    Students can obtain different types of OPT:

  • OPT during the student’s annual vacation, as long as school is not in session and the student intends to register for the next semester.
  • Part-time OPT (no more than 20 hours per week) while school is in session.
  • Full-time OPT for up to one year, after completion of the student’s program.
  • OPT STEM Extension, for up to an additional seventeen months, for students who are in a STEM field.

  • Eligibility requirements for OPT:

  • The student must have maintained valid F-1 status for at least one academic year.
  • Employment must be related to the student’s major area of study.
  • The student must submit his or her OPT application well before completion of studies (graduation date). OIP recommends that students apply for OPT at least 60 days before completion of their studies.

  • Important points to remember:

  • Students applying for OPT may not start employment until they have received the Employment Authorization Card (EAD) and are allowed to begin work on the date specified in the EAD card.
  • Students can engage in OPT in both pre- and post-completion of studies, but the cumulative maximum amount of time that can be granted for OPT should not exceed 12 months per educational level (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral). This means that if a student after completion of OPT decides to go back to school to a higher level of education (for example, from bachelor’s to master’s), the student can be granted OPT again for the second education level.
  • Once authorization for OPT has been granted and an EAD card is issued, the OPT may not be overturned, canceled, or deferred. However, the OPT will cancel if the student begins a new academic program and a new l-20 is issued.
  • Students on OPT are allowed to work for more than one employer or change employers provided that the new job is directly related to the student’s area of study.
  • All students engaged in OPT who wish to travel outside the United States are subject to the same travel requirements as a regular F-1 student. Visit Travel Guidelines for more information; however it is strongly advised that the student has a job offer in hand and their EAD card before re-entry. Review the OPT Packet (link) for information on the documents needed for the application. Once you have collected the necessary documentation, make an appointment with the student advisor to request OPT. The OPT application packet can be found on our OIP Forms page.

Employment Options for J-1 Students

Several types of employment are available to international J-1 students. The main categories include on-campus employment, academic training related to course of study, and employment based on economic circumstances.

J-1 Student On-Campus Employment

    Employment on the premises of the postsecondary accredited educational institution is classified as on-campus employment. While they are attending school full-time and maintaining their J-1 status, J-1 students are permitted to work part-time on the university’s premises. On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week except during official school breaks, during which time students can work full-time. Before students start working, they must have written authorization from the agency that issued their DS-2019. This employment authorization is valid for up to 12 months.

J-1 Student Academic Training

    Academic training includes work, training or practical experience related to the student’s major field of study. Academic training may involve sequential or concurrent activities, either paid or unpaid with one or more employers. J-1 students are required to apply for academic training with the office that issued their DS-2019.

    Academic Training (for J-1 Students)

    Academic Training refers to work, training, or experience that is related to a J-1 student’s field of study. Academic Training is permitted at any stage of a student’s program, either while the student is enrolled in school or after the completion date of the academic program.

  • The student must have maintained legal J-1 status and be in good academic standing.
  • The student must be in the United States primarily to study rather than to engage in academic training.
  • Academic training must be done with a specific employer or training site, and be directly related to the major field of study listed on the DS-2019. A specific description of the training opportunity is required.
  • The student must receive the Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer’s written approval in advance to any work. The written approval must list the duration and type of academic training to be performed.

  • Time Limitations:

  • Students in Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programs are limited to 18 months of Academic Training.
  • Postdoctoral Academic Training is limited to 36 months, but is issued for 18 months at a time.

    NOTE: Students pursuing Academic Training must obtain a new SEVIS DS-2019 that records the Academic Training and provides students with an exact date when they can start their employment. The J-1 application packet can be found on our OIP Forms page.

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J-1 Student Employment Based on Unforeseen Economic Circumstances

    Students are allowed off-campus employment due to “serious, urgent and unforeseen economic circumstances” that take place after the student engaged in studies under a J visa. This employment is limited to 20 hours per week and must be authorized in writing by the agency that issued your DS-2019 prior to the beginning of employment. For more information, contact OIP.